Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge that links Crimea to Russia, after a truck explosion in October


  • The source of the Defense officials' assessment of Ukraine's chances of retaking Crimea is unclear
  • Gen. Mark Milley said a Ukrainian offensive to recapture Crimea would be very difficult
  • NATO-member Croatia suggested that Crimea "will never again be part of Ukraine"

Senior officials of the Department of Defense suggested that Ukraine is unlikely to recapture occupied Crimea from Russia anytime soon, which would further frustrate the beleaguered country.

Four senior Defense officials revealed this assessment to the members of the House Armed Services Committee in a classified briefing, Politico reported.

Present in the closed-door meeting with House lawmakers were Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, the director of operations on the Joint Staff.

But the source of the Pentagon's assessment that a Ukrainian offensive to retake Crimea, which has been under Russian occupation for almost a decade, is unclear.

Pentagon refused to comment on the content of the classified briefing but noted Ukraine's "remarkable performance" in taking back its sovereign territory from the Russian forces.

"We're not going to comment on closed-door classified briefings, nor will we talk about hypotheticals or speculate on potential future operations," Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said. "In terms of Ukraine's ability to fight and take back sovereign territory, their remarkable performance in repulsing Russian aggression and continued adaptability on the battlefield speaks for itself."

The House Armed Services also declined to comment on the matter.

The Defense officials' bleak assessment of Ukraine's chances of retaking Crimea runs similar to the remarks made by Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chair, during a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Group in Germany last month.

Milley said flushing out Russian forces from the entire Ukraine would be "very, very difficult," while noting that it doesn't mean it is impossible.

Milley's comment drew ire from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as Ukraine is preparing for major offensives almost a year after Russia invaded their country.

Ukraine is also furious with Croatia, a NATO country, after its president, Zoran Milanovic, said that Crimea "will never again be part of Ukraine."

Milanovic also argued that providing Ukraine with military assistance would only extend the conflict.

"In my opinion, it's a question of maturity. It is clear that Crimea will never again be in Ukraine," Milanovic said, the Daily Mail reported. "I am against sending any lethal arms there, it prolongs the war."

In a statement, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko called the Croatian president's remark unacceptable, saying it "effectively cast doubt" on Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Throughout the Russian-led war, Zelensky stressed that taking back Crimea and other occupied regions from Russian forces would bring the war to an end.

In November, Zelensky said he didn't believe a "simple ceasefire" would bring peace.

Zelensky has also rejected peace offers from Russia, which includes recognizing the Russian annexation of some occupied Ukrainian regions.

Aerial view of the Pentagon is seen in Washington